ALTHUSSER 'FOR MARX'? -- 1

Pete Bratsis aki at cunyvms1.gc.cuny.edu
Wed Apr 26 02:04:19 MDT 1995




	As the person who started this most recent debate on Althusser,
I feel an obligation to make a few comments on the most recent
contributions.  But, I will have to limit myself since it is 2:30 am
here in New York and I still have to prepare a lecture for my morning
class.  This is to say, more is to follow later this week.

	I think the issue of alienation is a fascinating one.  And,
is one of the most misunderstood elements of Althusser's work.
The key to this is found in his "Ideology and ...."  Alienation comes
about when we misregonize ourselfs.  For example, for the capitalist
we are a 'commodity'.  We become alienated from ourselfs when we
recoginize ourselfs as a commodity rather than as a human being.  The
same for society, when we misrecognize our relation to other people
as relations between us and commodities, etc.  This logic a familar
to those who have read the 1844 manuscripts, the first chapter of
capital, etc.  Now, I think the Althusserian innovation on this is not
that he denies alienation as a non-valid object of inquiry per se -
it is that he shows its omni-presence.  If you will, recall Althusser's
claim that ideology has no history, it is omnipresent with no begining
or possible end.  Also recall his notion of interpellation as an act
of (mis)recoginiton of the self as the addressee of the call or
hailing of the other.   Here we have the act of fethishization and
cause of alienation par excellence.  We become constituted as concrete
subjects qua individuals by way of alienation.  To become an 'individual'
we must necessarily become alienated.  For example, we are concurently
interpellated as worker, American, husband, etc, etc.  That is we constantly
are interpellated / misrecognize ourselfs as that which we are for all
these others.  Our real self, that which we are for ourselves - not for
others, is beyond all that.  Here we have the Lacanian distinction between
subject position - the positions we take on in the symbolic order - and
the Subject, that which cannot be reconsiled with the symbolic order,
the Real.  Thus, for Althusser we could say that since ideology is
omnipresent so is alienation.  Here we see why Althusser is not a
humanist; but, let us leave the problem of humanism aside for now.
Concurrently, it could be possible to construct an ethic of alienation
from what Althussser says on the issue.  This is indeed what Slavoj
Zizek does in _The Sublime Object of Ideology_.  I will also
leave this issue aside for now, but I highly recomend the book and
am more than happy to debate and discuss it.  Note the introduction
where Zizek talks about the famed Habermas-Foucault debate and the
role of Althsser-Lacan.

	On Bachelard, epistemic breaks, etc.  My understanding of
epistemic break is that it occurs within a given problematic when
it goes from ideology to science by constucting its object of
analysis by abstraction not from any particular relationship of people
to the phenemon in question.  Here we see that science necessarily
is subjectless - it excludes a role for our perception.  For this
reason, Althusser calls science a discourse without
as he puts it, 'That the author
insofar as he writes the lines of a discourse which claims to be
scientific, is completely absent as a 'subject' from 'his' discourse
....  For this reason, Althusser only see's mathematics, physics,
Marxism, and psycho-analysis as sciences.  But, we seen that
ideology is necessary to science because it is its necessare
precurser.  Only from an ideological problemic can you
have a break that brings about science.  It should be noted
that Bachelard is not only appropiated by Althusser but also
by Foucalt, Bourdieu, Canguilhem, and many more.  Apparently,
a whole generation of French thinkers learned thier phil. of
science from Bachelard.

	Obviously, I too think there is good stuff in Althusser
and good things to be said about him.  I myself was a bio-chemistry
major in the begining of my college years untill I read Poulantzas, and
then Althusser and Gramsci.  For all their abstraction and formalism
they had a certain resonance and I quickly droped the other stuff
(it was boring as hell at any rate) and turned to the social sciences.
While I have modified my views on these issues over the years, I still
think them worthy of reading and have an emotional tie to them
in some ways.  To be continued.

Peter Bratsis


Peter Bratsis



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